Researcher wants to learn more about horse flu on P.E.I.

Ontario-based researcher Amy Greer is asking horse owners in P.E.I. as well as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to complete an online survey to help collect data about the possible presence and spread of horse flu.

Amy Greer asking horse owners to complete online survey by December

An Ontario-based researcher is asking Island horse owners to complete an online survey in order to better understand the presence and spread of horse flu.

An Ontario-based researcher wants to hear from Islanders about the travel patterns and health of their horses in order to learn more about how a highly contagious respiratory disease might be impacting the animals.

"It's not the sort of disease the causes mortality or anything like that. But certainly, I think for horse owners, it is still a significant concern in terms of their horse's health and it's a concern because of how contagious it is," explained Amy Greer, a Canada Research Chair and faculty member in the Ontario Veterinary College's Department of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph.

Equine Influenza

The respiratory disease Greer is interested in is equine influenza, or horse flu. To learn more, she is asking horse owners in P.E.I. as well as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to participate in an online survey that asks about the age of a horse, its history of vaccinations and the horse's travel patterns to events such as fairs and shows.

Horses with equine influenza have symptoms such as fever, coughing and nasal discharge, she said. But it is through coughing, snorting, travel patterns and proximity to other horses that the disease is spread.

"For the majority of horses, it's not overly serious. Horses may become ill for a short period of time," Greer said. "But, in general, most horses recover relatively quickly. Although some can take longer … if they are, perhaps, older horses or have other underlying health conditions."

Greer started the study after recently hearing about a veterinarian in Nova Scotia treating horses for the disease. The veterinarian suggested the problem might be occurring in other Maritime provinces. 

"We're very lucky in North America and in Canada that large outbreaks in infectious diseases in horses are actually quite rare. But, they still do occur," Greer said.

"So, when these types of opportunities to better understand the ways in which a disease can spread present themselves, it's important for us to think about trying to collect data which allows us to better inform our decision making."

Greer said the online survey takes about 10-15 minutes and that responses would be kept confidential. She would like to have horse owners complete the survey by December. Information on the survey can be found at www.mathepilab.org/

With files from Stephanie Kelly